9 Things to Never Do When Your Car Breaks Down


A car breakdown is not a common occurrence for the average motorist. In fact, it has yet to happen to me, although I have only been driving for 13 years. However, at some point your car could break down, be it a mechanical failure, an electrical issue, or a flat tire. When that happens, you will probably call your insurance or a tow service first. But make sure you also take heed of the following list. It will save you time, money, and maybe even your life. (See also: Repair the Car or Spend the Settlement?)

1. Do Not Stay in the Car

Unless the weather is extreme, you need to get everyone out of the car and away from the road. Ideally, people should be behind a crash barrier if there is one. Of course, if the weather is extreme, you may have to balance the risks of staying in the car and being hit, with the possibility of exposure or other weather-related conditions. And if you are in a dangerous area, you may need to lock yourself in the car until help arrives. Try and get the car as far away from the road as possible in these exceptions.

2. Do Not Exit the Vehicle Using the Doors Nearest the Traffic

This may seem like common sense, but few people are thinking clearly when they're in a situation like this. The first reaction is to get out of the car and look under the hood. But if you exit using the driver's door, you are at much greater risk of being hit by a vehicle. It may seem like a pain, but get out of the doors that are furthest from the flow of traffic. It is much safer.

3. Do Not Stand Behind, or Next to, the Vehicle

Once you're out of the car, you need to get a safe distance away from it. Remember, a car parked by the side of the road can be a distraction, and there are plenty of horrific crashes and near misses caught on camera every year. You do not want to be leaning on the car when a vehicle doing 60 mph smashes into it. Like it says above, get behind a crash barrier.

4. Do Not Accept Help From Unofficial Sources

It's a sad sign of the times that this one is on the list. But, it's necessary. Good Samaritans are everywhere, but so are predators, scam artists, and thieves. Even if their intentions seem genuine, someone could be setting you up for something unthinkable. You never want to get into their car if they offer to take you to the nearest gas station or repair shop. The only time you should ever accept help when it is offered is from the emergency services, official breakdown or highway services, or from someone you know and trust. If anyone else offers, politely decline and tell them the breakdown service is just a couple of minutes away.

5. Do Not Flag Down Other Vehicles

Just like the previous tip, this is a precaution you have to take for your personal safety. You have no idea who you're going to get to help, and there are plenty of people out there who will take advantage of the situation. You are basically telling a potential predator that you are stranded, and that puts you in a very vulnerable spot. Even if you're a big burly guy who can handle himself, there are always people out there who can do you harm. Don't take the chance; don't take the chance, wait for help from your breakdown service.

6. Do Not Leave Your Vehicle in the Road

You are required to get that car out of the way, and quickly. If it's possible to pull over to the side of the road, do so safely. If the car is stuck in traffic, you're going to have to move it yourself. A friendly (or impatient) motorist will no doubt come along and help you push or steer. If you don't get it out of the road, you could be rear-ended, cause a collision, or something even worse could happen.

7. Do Not Assume People Can See You

Your car is parked by the side of the road; the hood is up, it's clear you're having car trouble. But these days, motorists are more preoccupied than ever (which is not a good sign at all). You need to make sure you and your car are as visible as possible to other drivers. Turn on your emergency lights immediately, that's what they're there for.

8. Do Not Display Your Red Warning Triangle

It seems obvious that you should put that out the second you breakdown. Not so. Green Flag breakdown service says that the risks of getting out of your car and walking by the side of fast-moving traffic are far greater than the benefits of that red triangle.

9. Do Not Try to Fix the Problem Unless You Know What You're Doing

This may seem like a no brainer, but any mechanic will tell you that a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing. Most people know how to fix a flat tire, but some have never even tried. Put the jack in the wrong place on the car and start jacking it up, and you're doing damage. You may also have to put yourself perilously close to the moving traffic in order to change the tire. If that's the case, wait for your breakdown service. You pay a monthly fee, now is the time to utilize it.

Fiddling with engine parts can also be dangerous, and can cause more damage to the car (and you). So, if you have the knowhow, and are confident you can solve the problem, by all means do so. But if you're planning to lift the hood to fiddle with wires and do a little mindless tinkering, don't bother. You are not helping. In fact, you could make it even harder to repair.

Any other roadside safety tips we should pass along? Please share in comments!

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